Sony WF-1000XM4s – Great iteration but worth your dollar?

Launched on 8/5/2019, The Sony WF-1000XM3 series of wireless earbuds was the standard for wireless earbuds and the best alternative to the Apple Airpods Pro. The Sony boasts its proprietary noise canceling processor: the QN1e processor, the same processor as that on their famous over-ear headphones, the WH-1000XM series. At the time of the introduction of the Sony WF-1000XM3s there were only a couple companies making noise canceling earbuds but since then, many more companies have entered the space.

On June 8th 2021 Sony released their second attempt at wireless noise canceling earbuds, WF-1000XM4s. These earbuds are a brilliant improvement on a brilliant product, but are these earbuds worth the whopping $280.00 given the competitive market? This reviewer gives his thoughts.

The Predecessor: Sony WF-1000XM3s

I really enjoyed Sony’s WF-1000XM3s. Admittedly, I didn’t make much use of the AAC (Advanced Audio Coding), and SBC (Low Complexity Sub-band Coding) support, but I was always thrilled with the sound of these earbuds. I ended up listening to songs with a lot more bass because of how intoxicating the low end of these buds sounded. Travis Scott’s “Birds in the Trap Sing McNight” was on rotation all of a sudden. The battery life of the Sony WF-1000XM3s was great, I rarely was caught off guard. And while the Sony WF-1000XM3s had no IP rating for sweat or dust, I worked out frequently wearing them and I had no issues. Something I have not read another reviewer mention. I do recommend these for working out.

The Sony WF-1000XM3s were not perfect. The mics on them were redoubtable, especially for a price tag north of 200 dollars. My mother had more trouble hearing me on the Brooklyn streets than usual. She said my voice sounds “tinny”.

The case which housed the Sony WF-1000XM3s was also a little unwieldy. The case was roughly the size of a pack of cigarettes. The size would be no issue for a backpack or a jacket pocket, but I could not recommend the Sony WF-1000XM3s as summer-time earbuds. The Sony WF-1000XM3s also are the only headphones I have owned which came out of my ears when I threw a hoodie on. Admittedly an unorthodox test, but it was frustrating to handle the large size. The Sony WF-1000XM3s were good for listening. They were good in the gym. They were awesome on the plane. Congrats, Sony.


The Cream of the Crop: Sony WF-1000XM4s


June 8th 2021, we saw the release of Sony WF-1000XM4s. The sound was completely stellar. Sony added an IP68 rating for dust and water resistance to sure up the workout experience.  The battery life was the best I ever experienced, which is insane given that I own Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus (industry leading battery life) and these are still noise canceling earbuds—a power drain.

The case for the Sony WF-1000XM4s, was shrunk down to something much more manageable; roughly the size of a pill container. They were still not as thin as the Apple Airpods Pro, but a lot easier to store than its predecessor, the Sony WF-1000XM3s. The Sony WF-1000XM4s were, across the board, better earbuds than their predecessors. So why couldn’t I recommend an improved version of one of my favorite sets of wireless earbuds?

What has changed?

The reason is that the noise canceling wireless earbud market has changed dramatically. When the Sony WF-1000XM3s were released there were only a handful of noise canceling options justified the $230.00 price tag. Today, most audio companies have released a noise-canceling earbud. Noise canceling is no longer a premium feature.

The Sony WF-1000XM4s are a stellar product. However, they are not worth the money $280.00 asking price, especially when you can get Apple Airpods Pro, Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro, Jabra 75ts, Jabra 85ts, Oneplus Buds Pro, and many more selling for between $100 to $200 range. In addition, the Sony app is still a little heavy to use—it’s not fun. Even with iteration, the Sony WF-1000XM4s are still larger earbuds than most, so it is not a comfortable fit for everyone. For this reviewer, they are a certified pain to switch between devices. I often would have to “forget” them on one device so they would work on another.

The wireless earbud market place has exploded and many competitors are releasing products with similar features. Paying top dollar for any one given one feature, especially for noise canceling, does not make sense as like it did when the Sony WF-1000XM3s were released. I am looking forward to seeing how much the price on Sony WF-1000XM4s drops. They are spectacular earbuds, but not worth their current price.

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